What do 21st Century volunteers want?

 As we make presentations around the country on volunteerism, we are increasingly called to talk about the 21st Century volunteer—the folks who are busy, busy, busy, but still find time to give back to their community. First some facts. Yes, there are fewer volunteers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics each year gathers information about volunteering in the United States.  This report is full of great information and they show that in 2012, 26.8 % of all Americans volunteered.  That number is great and includes about 64.3 million people—up almost a million people from the previous year.  However, Prof. Robert D. Putnam of Harvard University, said in his seminal book Bowling Alone, tells us that participation in volunteer associations in the 1990's plunged by 30-50% since the mid-1960's.  He also noted that in the year 2002, 56% of Americans volunteered.  That is a big drop!  So you are not hallucinating, there are fewer volunteers overall. So who are today’s volunteers?  According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, more women (29.9%) than men (23.5%) volunteered in 2012.  The group most likely to volunteer?  35 to 44-year olds (31.8 %) and 45 to 54 (30.6 %) year olds, which may seem counter intuitive. Parents with kids under 18 year old, volunteer A LOT!  Thirty seven and a half percent of fathers volunteer and over fourth five percent of mothers volunteered in 2012.  Parents generally volunteer for many kid related activities like coaching, tutoring etc. Who gives the most time?  Older people over 65 give more hours (96) a year, but the young folks, those younger than 25, still give about 32 hours a year.  The average number of hours volunteering for all Americans is 51 hours a year in 2012.  In terms of racial characterizes the number of Whites who volunteer is 28.2 %, and is down from last year.  Twenty percent of Blacks volunteered last year 20.3 %).  Twenty percent of Asians volunteered and this is a steep rise compared to last year. In addition, almost fifteen percent of Hispanics volunteered last year.

 The 21st century volunteer is more likely to be Gen X person, an active senior, a working professionals and students through either in-service requirements, or coop programs.  So what will motivate these volunteers?  They are web engaged.  They are driven by personal beliefs/growth and accomplishment.  They are less motivated by social norms and interested in social connections (nothing about that is new). These people are busy in their home and work lives, and need flexibility in order to complete assignments.  They are less likely to take on long term commitments and want short-term projects.  That is no reason to not consider short projects, because they will volunteer again if the experience was worthwhile.  If the organization makes an effort to make volunteer projects the coolest thing to do in town and make volunteering FUN, then you are likely to have a chance at having a robust pool of potential volunteers.  We will be posting about creating volunteer job descriptions that will significantly help with recruitment activities in the coming weeks.